BWW Interview: Honoring the Greats in the Modern-Day: Ultra-Talented Jazz Musicians, Peter and Will Anderson, Weave Music & Storytelling In Songbook Summit

BWW Interview: Honoring the Greats in the Modern-Day: Ultra-Talented Jazz Musicians, Peter and Will Anderson, Weave Music & Storytelling In Songbook Summit

Identical twin brothers, Peter and Will Anderson, have kept a pure love of music and discovery from their childhood at the forefront, as they've built successful careers and found their place in the jazz community. Playing the clarinet and saxophone since grade school, this duo went on to study at The Juilliard School, and through the support of their mentors, were introduced to different sounds and styles and guided to performance opportunities all throughout New York City. Building impressive resumes, they have toured all throughout the United States, as well as internationally, and have worked on composing their own music for numerous albums. Inspiring audiences of all ages, these modern-day trailblazers are keeping the legacies of the greats alive by sharing the soulful history and sounds of jazz that have influenced generations.

This August, the ultra-talented pair, with vocalist Molly Ryan, are leading a 32-show run at Symphony Space on the Upper West Side. "Songbook Summit" will feature the music of Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Hoagy Carmichael, and Jimmy Van Heusen - treating audiences to one composer per week. BroadwayWorld had the exciting opportunity to speak with Will Anderson about the upcoming run; how the brothers' love of music and performing first began; and how they are honoring the lives and careers of the greats in the present time.

Where did the love of music first begin?

My brother and I don't actually come from a particularly musical family. When we were little, our parents would play music in the house - not necessarily jazz - but R&B and rock 'n' roll and we would just go insane! We got so excited and took all the pots and pans out. They had to stop playing music for a while to get us to calm down. There was a no music policy for a little bit (laughs!)

In the fourth grade, we started playing the clarinet and got hooked on it, and jazz in particular. We inspired each other to practice and played lots of duets. We then added the saxophone a year later and were playing a lot in school and then different all-county events. Every opportunity we got, our parents were so supportive!

I bet they are happy they ended the no music policy! It must be so special to get to share the journey with your brother.

We are really lucky - we had some great teachers, but more importantly, we have always had each other. One of us will learn something new and want to share. Sometimes, it's a little bit of a competition (laughs)!

We moved to New York after high school and wanted to keep studying and playing. It's been great to experience so much together.

Do you have any mentors that have shaped your career?

There's been so many! A gentleman named Paul Carr, was our sax mentor all throughout high school. We would take private lessons and ended up going to The Juilliard School. Whenever Paul performed in the area, he would invite us to join him - it was great experience! He's from Houston and we learned a lot of the more bluesy and traditional styles and were really grateful to have that influence.

Part of what our show, "Songbook Summit," is based on is the classics and reminding people how important they are and how they still have relevance. They not only influence Broadway, radio, and television, but also how The Great American Songbook is a joining between the composers and the jazz musicians. There will be some storytelling and a lot of history and anecdotes about the composers and musicians collaborating and how they hit it big! It's got a nice blend of sophistication and simplicity and can be interpreted in new ways. Our vocalist is Molly Ryan - she's a good friend and has worked with us for a while! We're excited to have Molly perform with us.

What can audiences expect from Songbook Summit?

Last year, we did the first version of this show and featured four composers - Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Harold Arlen, and Richard Rodgers - four big ones, but we were leaving a lot out! This summer, we wanted to add more and will have Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Hoagy Carmichael, and Jimmy Van Heusen - some of our favorites!

Each composer has their own unique message and we like highlighting their stories -- coming from a different place and perspective. With Berlin, it's so interesting that he came to America and didn't know English yet composed "God Bless America" and "Blue Skies" that defined the American language! He actually wasn't formally musically trained and could only play the piano in one key - he had a really good ear and heard everything he wanted.

It's a month long and we're going to be comparing the composers, but each show is different. Last year, a lot of audience members enjoyed seeing the unique qualities and getting a new perspective.

It will be informative and entertaining. We'll do some storytelling and perform about 12-13 songs to represent each composer and then also have film clips from where their songs are featured. It will be a lot of visuals and then the historical piece for the full experience!

We also will highlight examples of where the songs have been used in current day - like in TV commercials and pop culture. Keeping it current and reminding people of those references helps to bridge the gap. A lot of these melodies take you on a journey.

Can you describe what has kept you motivated throughout the creative process?

With this show, there's no shortage of motivation! The content is so great. For the Berlin segment, the hardest part is cutting material - there's so much good meat! We're doing 8 shows of each composer - I wish we could do each of them for a whole month!

We both love performing - there's so many layers to it. Bring in NYC and taking to audience members after the show is so cool. We have a lot of experts in the audience and family members of composers come and share more information. We learn a lot putting these shows together and is such a joy for us - we like to keep it fresh and fun!

How has being in New York helped to elevate your experience and continued learning?

My brother and I have learned so much from these master musicians and just being in NYC. We're often playing with Vince Giordano and a ton of jazz musicians who have worked with Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and others - everything we've learned we try to put into the show.

Joe Temperley, our teacher at Juilliard, taught us a lot of these songs and played with Duke Ellington for many years and carrying on his tradition is very important for us! He played up until the end - well into his eighties!

Being in NYC, there's so many experts of The Great American Songbook - we see Michael Feinstein on occasion and learning from people like him and Bill Charlap is tremendous! Kenny Washington is also one of our teachers and mentors and is so inspiring as well!

Any favorite words of wisdom from your mentors?

Joe would always say, "Be able to sing through the saxophone!" and emphasized how important it is to know the lyrics, even if you were an instrumentalist. You want to be able to be singing the lyrics out of your instrument.

What's next for Peter and Will Anderson?

My brother and I are also recording a new album of original music that should be released sometime next year. Composing new music is really important to us.

Keep up with Peter and Will at:

Full Schedule:

Running August 7th - September 2nd

Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri 7pm; Sat 4&7pm; Sun 2&5pm

Running Time: 90 minutes (no intermission)

Irving Berlin, Aug 7 - 12: "Puttin' on the Ritz," "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better," "White Christmas," "There's No Business Like Show Business," and more!

Jerome Kern, Aug 14 - 19: "Ol Man River," "I Won't Dance," "The Song is You," "The Way You Look Tonight," and more!

Hoagy Carmichael, Aug 21 - 26: "Georgia on my Mind," "Heart and Soul," "Stardust," "The Nearness of You," and more!

Jimmy Van Heusen, Aug 28 - Sept 2: "My Kinda Town," "Come Fly with Me," "Ain't That a Kick in the Head," "All the Way," and more!

Musician Lineup:

Peter Anderson: tenor & soprano saxophone, clarinet
Will Anderson: alto saxophone, clarinet, flute
Molly Ryan: vocals; Tardo Hammer or Steve Ash: piano
Clovis Nicolas: acoustic bass; Philip Stewart: drum set

Symphony Space's Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater

2537 Broadway (at 95th St), New York, NY 10025

Box Office: (212) 864-5400 (Tues-Sun 1-6pm)
Online Link:

Photo: Courtesy of Peter and Will Anderson

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